From the view of international observers
04 October, 2012
From the view of international observers

Exclusive interview with one of the international observers Smaranda Enache

“All in all the elections were great test and I think that Georgian society demonstrated to all of Europe that they are mature enough to accept pluralist democracy,” – told one of the international observers, Co-chair of Liga Pro Europa and former ambassador of Romania to Finland Smaranda Enache to Georgian Journal. This quote concerns the election results in total, but still, there are mildly some restrictions the elections to be considered completely perfect. How Georgian Parliamentary Elections 2012 are estimated by international observers, to be more exact by Centers for Pluralism Network and the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe Romania representative, Smaranda Enache tells.

 

G.J: Have Georgian parliamentary elections 2012 met international standards with being fair and transparent?

– In general, we can say, that these elections were correct and fair. This parliamentary vote was also an important test for the maturity of Georgian society, because what we noticed first of all was a large participation - high number of voters going to vote in villages and cities queuing in a very sunny, hot day for expressing their will and choice - this is an important test for democracy. So I would say that all in all we had noticed democratic and pluralist elections but technically, all the districts our 80 observers had been deployed we found important violations of Georgian Electoral Code starting with the fact, that some people were intimidated. There were people in the cars around precincts of the polling-stations.  Some members of commissions in different villages used to go to those cars and negotiated with representatives of mostly the United National Movement. We also had cases when people working in state institutions received phone calls to go and vote for UNM otherwise they would be fired from their jobs. In some regions where for instance the main part of residents are  Azerbaijanians I saw with my eyes women accompanied by mainly men were being taken to the booths to vote. Explanation of the fact was that they couldn’t understand Georgian language although in the list of parties are numbers and not only letters. This is clearly a violation of secrecy of the vote and influences the votes of women. Our observers also experienced fact of beating a journalist. In a village Tkviavi near the South Ossetian administrative border, a journalist was beaten in sight of an observer.

At the voting place, the commission president, also the chief of the area, took all ballots (significantly less than the number of voters) and drove them to Tbilisi without counting them. We also experienced facts when while vote-counting there were over hundred more votes than number of the voters registered. In the large majority of districts observed, there were fewer ballots than registered voters. Sometimes, this was a small difference; in many cases, there was a large difference. It remains unclear for what purposes a tangible portion of the ballots was not provided to the precincts but such practices is a violation of the Election Code (Article 63; p.8) and gives ground for suspicions that those missing ballots could have been used for ballot stuffing in the precincts that were not under proper control. Blank but sealed and signed ballots noticed outside the precinct doors points to “circular voting” by activists of the UNM. In such an example of electoral fraud ballots are filled out before entering the station, taken by the voter and dropped into the ballot-box, while the same voter takes the blank ballot given to him or her out of the precinct so the procedure may be repeated numerous times. In several precincts, a UNM observer was sitting in the doorway, impeding access to the voting area. An even more disturbing pattern of behavior was election commission members possessing copies of personal data papers of citizens, presumably made available from police records. These could easily be used for fraud (voting in someone’s, indeed a large group’s, behalf). Observers were unable to obtain any good answer for the existence of such papers on the voting area and commission members ran away when asked. These difficulties were reported in most of the districts. This has been observed in previous Georgian elections. All these violations we have noticed in different areas especially in more isolated villages where the media and observers aren’t so numeral, are all contained in our detailed report. This report isn’t meant to criticize the society, it is only meant to help. We also have been helped in Romania to improve our democracy and we think this is a sign of friendship and solidarity if we mention also the critical part of the elections. All in all the elections were great test and I think that Georgian society demonstrated to all of Europe that they are mature enough to accept pluralist democracy.

G.J: How do you explain the different electoral situation in Tbilisi and in regions? On October 1 evening the ruling party assured that although they lost Tbilisi, they had won almost all the regions while exit-polls put, that Ivanishvili was the winner. Besides, different TV stations reported different results. How would you explain and estimate these facts?

 

– I wouldn’t like to interfere with political life, but as an observer, as a former ambassador, as a civilian of my country, I say, that when media isn’t completely free, when the citizens of the country in some regions are prevented to receive the information they need to make reasonable choices, we have this kind of result. In fact, the public, the residents of Tbilisi have great access to free televisions, free media; have more exchanges with foreign colleagues, but in the regions of Georgia they don’t benefit from these possibilities. Differences aren’t because people are different, but because the quality and quantity of information they receive, is different.

G..J: Generally, the observers are mild and moderate while estimating election processes. For example, in Georgian Parliamentary Elections 2003 the observers in total said that those elections were democratic and transparent. But soon in result we got Rose Revolution. What if the observers’ statements and real post-electoral situation will not coincide with each other?

– I can assure you, I’m fully aware that Georgia is now in more ambitious historical time than it was in 2003. In 2003 probably the most important event needed for the Georgian society was that Rose Revolution, but today I think that Georgians have another ambition: they want to upgrade their democracy. They want the most sophisticated, participative, pluralist democracy. I’ve found out it from the discussions with people; I’ve witnessed it from the big demonstrations of joy and enthusiasm last night in the Freedom Square or Rustaveli Avenue, there were hundreds of very nice happy people, they were in the streets willing upgrade of their democracy. In my opinion, if the politician, like the president Saakashvili is wise and he understands the message of his people and he’s a good patriot, he’ll accept what the nation would like to happen, because democracy means that you work for victory, but also you accept when you lose. Because in participative democracy governments change every four year, presidents change also, they can go and come back, but in an autocratic regime there is only one person and I don’t think that Europe and civilized democracies accept Georgia to be an exception and to have an authoritarian rule. But there is harmony between Georgians and what community of democracy wants. Georgian people wish to become members of the European Union, NATO and I say so because I don’t think they vote just against the president and the government, but for more democratic Georgia.

G..J: Special forces in special stations - how do you think, will the results of those polling-stations be valid or not?

– In some regions huge violations have been documented. Police and other governmental/UNM officials were numerous both outside and inside voting areas. Plain clothes and uniformed policemen were writing on paper (it was unclear what but the clear indication was that they were keeping track of who voted and for whom). In almost all cases, some official (governmental or UNM) was hanging around outside the voting precinct. It should be noted that several observers witnessed large congregations of police and special services (SSPS) being deployed from different areas. In several areas, large truckloads of police were “in abeyance.” I think that the final protocols will be carefully inspected and I hope Central Election Commission of Georgia will be fair and they will correct where there have been errors or intimidations because I think it is in the interest of all of us. I have an optimistic view on these elections. I think Georgia will go towards the way of democracy and pluralism which means that everybody has to accept not the carousel of falsifications of the votes, but another carousel that one party being now in power then goes to opposition. All the Western democracies are based on this principle of alternations. Alternations are good for democracy. If only one force, one person is leading, power is often corrupted.

 

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